How dare they tell us the truth?

COLBY COSH: Comparing cell-phone-using drivers to drunken ones doesn’t make for a solid argument

by Colby Cosh

Maybe it’s true: you can put a Republican in a Democratic cabinet, but you can’t stop him from trashing science. On Friday the Highway Loss Data Institute issued a paper complaining that their insurance-claims information offered no significant indication that cellular bans in California, New York, Connecticut, and the District of Columbia had done a lick of good. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood took to the web in a state of high dudgeon, complaining that the study “irresponsibly suggests that laws banning cell phone use while driving have zero effect on the number of crashes on our nation’s roadways.”

Leaving aside whether it can be “irresponsible” for a study to report disappointing or unexpected data—although, why, yes, now that you mention it, that’s something the definition of scientific responsibility positively requires!—LaHood isn’t even speaking accurately about what the HLDI found. According to the Institute’s interpretation of the trendlines, New York and Connecticut experienced statistically significant increases in claims relative to other states when cell-phone bans were introduced. The effect of the ban wasn’t zero: it was worse than zero.

The HLDI doesn’t really believe that cell-phone bans make the roads more dangerous, and you probably shouldn’t either. The charts in the study offer a nice check on the credibility of the findings, and the one from New York actually appears to provide decent prima facie evidence that the cell-phone ban did work there:

New York state collision claims vs. those of neighbouring statesThe reason the statistical model used in the paper reported a negative effect in NY (and CT) is that those states were already enjoying long-term trends of increasing relative safety before the ban—trends which slowed, but, as you can see for yourself, did not stop. Interpretively, this seems like pretty sharp dealing. On the other hand, the unimpressive early results for California, the most populous state, have to be pretty disappointing for advocates of a cell-phone ban.

One way or another, there can be no excuse for LaHood to resort to the argument from anecdote in an attack on the world’s most important highway-safety authority.

Not explaining likely reasons for the surprising data encourages people to wrongly conclude that talking on cell phones while driving is not dangerous! Nothing could be further from the truth. Just ask Jennifer Smith and the founding board members of FocusDriven, who all lost loved ones in crashes caused by cell phone drivers. Ask Shelli Ralls, who lost her son Chance Wayne Wilcox on March 22, 2008. Ask any one of the hundreds of people who have poured out their stories of loss on Oprah, on websites, in blogs and newspapers around the country.

You heard right: go ask Oprah, says the man 13th in the line of succession to the nuclear football. I for one would be more comfortable right now if that number were a little higher.

I thought another part of LaHood’s horrified screed was particularly amusing:

Look, a University of Utah study shows that using a cell phone while driving can be just as dangerous and deadly as driving drunk.

The part he left out, in describing that 2006 study, is that motorists were put in a driving simulator and tested four times: once while sober and undistracted, once while using a handheld cell, once while using a hands-free set, and once while at a blood-alcohol level of exactly 0.08%—the legal limit in many North American jurisdictions. What the researchers actually found is that driving “drunk” by this definition isn’t all that dangerous!

“Neither accident rates, nor reaction times to vehicles braking in front of the participant, nor recovery of lost speed following braking differed significantly” from undistracted drivers, the researchers write. …Drews says the lack of accidents among the study’s drunken drivers was surprising. He and Strayer speculate that because simulated drives were conducted during mornings, participants who got drunk were well-rested and in the “up” phase of intoxication.

Whoa, there’s an “up” phase!?

Look, we all know it’s better to drive without distractions and without a bellyful of Wild Turkey. But learning to take drunk driving seriously has been an important achievement of Western civilization in recent times, and that achievement is undermined when politicians make gibbering, hysterical comparisons of cell-phone-using drivers to drunken ones. The case for cell-phone bans has to stand on its own two feet. And, ideally, on a solid empirical foundation of the sort that has not yet been supplied.




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How dare they tell us the truth?

  1. How many people in accidents will admit they were talking on a cell phone, especially if that act is banned and could result in a ticket etc.?

    • The graphs suggest that however they collected their data, it doesn't seem to have a wildly variable effect on the results of their independently collected data from state tot state. Also, when designing a responsible empirical study, I understand that methodology is scrutinized quite carefully in peer journals.

      So, you would probably have to have access to the paper in question, be familiar with the merits and weaknesses of reporting methods and the kinds of controls in place to account for them.

    • It appears that this study didn't rely on data (self-reported or otherwise) about what caused the accidents at all… it just compared accident rates in states with cell-phone bans to states without. If cell phone bans were effective you'd expect to see a drop in the overall accident rate.

      • If one was to remove the seasonal effect of the data, and use annual, you essentially have 4 data points – two for the two years before the ban, two for the two years after.

        Then you have to take into consideration how quickly drivers adapt to the new laws. Implicitly, these graphs assume 100% compliance. From what I can find for Caifornia, the ticket was $20 first time offence when implemented. So, how many people would stop cell phone usage for the risk of getting a $20 fine. Then you have to account for those that are using handsfree – so still possibly distracted by using the phone.

        I don't think these graphs show anything, nor can they show anything of any significance. Maybe after 5 or 10 years there might be something statistically significant but not at this level.

        • If one was to remove the seasonal effect of the data…
          Which has effectively been done by comparing each month in a 'cell-phone banned' state to the same month in a 'cell-phone allowed' state (or states) with (it would appear) roughly similar accident rates.

          …you essentially have 4 data points…
          No – you have 48.

          I don't think these graphs show anything…
          I don't want to think these graphs show anything…
          There, fixed that for ya!

          • No, I'd say more likely that, with Alberta considering a cell phone ban, and Colby being libertarian, he went fishing for a "study" that would support his predetermined position. This means nothing, though obviously for his readers like you, it does.

            I'm not saying you're mean. In fact, quite below it.

          • Dot – let's try to argue the facts, 'mkay?
            The cited material indicates that a cellphone ban has not resulted in an improvement in road safety – you are free (being not libertarian) to go "fishing for a study" that supports the opposite contention. If you find one, it would be useful to discuss it, although your demonstrated ignorance of statistics and willingness to dismiss evidence simply because it contradicts your prior assumptions might render that discussion pretty pointless – but we'll take what we get.

    • "How many people in accidents will admit they were talking on a cell phone"

      I don't know what the self-report rate is but I do know it is quite easy for cops to check if your cell phone was in use at time of accident.

      • Just hide it.

        Another point- the statistics are based upon Collision Claim frequency. So, if you don't file an insurance claim, it doesn't show up on the stats.

  2. Great post, Colby.

    CBC Radio talked about HIV and needle exchange programs in prisons this morning. One guest, a former Mike Harris Minister of Corrections, said (quite reasonably) "I think if you asked the average Ontarian, they would disagree with needle exchanges in prisons."

    The host then talked about a Spanish study that demonstrated lower disease transmission rates, lower costs and increased success treating addiction as a result of prison needle exchange programs.

    The former Minister of Corrections immediately dismissed this and returned to "I think the average Ontarian would disagree with needle exchange programs."

    And that was it. He had no data regarding efficacy, and ignored data presented to him in favour of his "gut" and his assumption of what an average (ie not well-informed) citizen might think, as though that opinion was inherently virtuous.

    We deserve better than legislation and executive decisions made without data. Harper's minimum sentence legislation is a golden example of a government writing legislation in the absence (or, in that case, directly opposed to) data that should inform it.

    • Couldn't agree more. Dan Gardner has written extensively on this confirmation bias effect and how it infects debate, news coverage and public policy. It takes courage to have an initial gut instinct on what the right thing to do is, declare it, and then to be faced with overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Sort of like Nicholson in reverse.

      • The correctional minister most likely has never stepped into a prison and when he does I bet the places are presented in their clean versions! These people are pretty ignorant.

        • You also see many self-interested groups rushing to testify to their own benefit when policies that feather their respectives nests are threatened. Police associations will pile on the rhetoric about hwo they see the worst of the underbelly and that drugs are bad and they need to be punished hard to make everyone stop. No one questions them closely on empirical evidence; no one challenges their self interest to rely on drug stats to warrant overtime and extra perosonnel; no one asks them about the value they attach to using suspicion of possession of certain products as an excuse to search for other thigs.

  3. Looking at the graph, it appears there were noticable spikes in the accident rates approximately two years before the ban, one year before the ban, one year after the ban and two years after the ban. However there was no spike the year of the ban!

    This means that in order to make our roads safer, we need to generate a new ban each (and every) year. Moreover the good news does not stop there; the graph indicates that the positive effects of the ban were not local and actually spill over into adjacent states with no bans. This means that regionally, states can take turns implementing bans.

    • Your science is sturdier than the science of global warming. Bring on the bans.

      • Actually the data above are strong proof for global warming. Given that it has been proven that people are getting stupider and Toyotas less safe, the only possible reason left for the long term decline is less snow and ice.

        • You should apply for a job at East Anglia!

      • All the new applications put into cars are surely distracting drivers as much as the long lags in traffic when people close their eyes for minutes at a time or read!!!! Surely talking to a passenger is distracting to the driver as well. There are no quick fixes to the problems of road safety and the cops who enforce the laws decide who gets corrective action. I wonder how many people in power have to pay tickets or are they given more warnings?????

  4. "Just hide it."

    It is not that easy. There are often witnesses and cops can go to cell phone company and find out if it was use.

    I have not seen Canadian numbers but I saw this study just the other week:

    "The National Safety Council estimates that at least 28 percent of all traffic crashes — or at least 1.6 million crashes each year — are caused by drivers using cell phones and texting."

    http://www.automotive-fleet.com/Channel/Safety-Ac

  5. "Just hide it."

    It is not that easy. There are often witnesses and cops can go to cell phone company and find out if it was use.

    I have not seen Canadian numbers but I saw this study just the other week:

    "The National Safety Council estimates that at least 28 percent of all traffic crashes — or at least 1.6 million crashes each year — are caused by drivers using cell phones and texting."

    http://www.automotive-fleet.com/Channel/Safety-Ac

    • I wouldn't describe it as a "study". It's more of "a wholly fanciful estimate conjured from a donkey's hindquarters."

      • Is it? I just read the headline and first paragraph when I first saw the report. Twenty eight percent of all accidents caused by cell phones did seem high but I didn't look into it because I am not bovvered one way or another.

        I assume LaHood was all bent out of shape about the latest study to illustrate there is no link between accidents and cell phones because his Dept just launched initiative to ban cellphones in cars.

        This topic has got me thinking: automakers want to turn your vehicle into a home entertainment system almost. I wonder about demand for even more gadgets from consumers and how pols/bureaucrats will react.

        • Once automated driving takes over that won't be an issue.

  6. I posit that the ban increased claims of phone-related collisions because individuals:
    a) tried to conceal their conversations/texts/etc, further drawing their eyes away from the road, rather than pinning the phone to their steering wheel (where it's readily visible by a traffic cop) and texting/talking on speaker; and/or
    b) spent more time fiddling with handsfree devices, further drawing their attention away from the road.

    Discuss.

    • Any one who is "fiddling" with a HANDSFREE device needs to read the owner's manual of the handsfree device and turn it on BEFORE they start driving. Handsfree devices don't require one to use one's hands (it's rather the point), so if you're fiddling with it, the problem is not the handsfree device, the problem is either that you have a handsfree device that you left turned off until you were in the middle of driving, or that you never bothered learning how to use your handsfree device, either of which of course completely nullifies the point of having a handsfree device.

  7. On a more serious note than my comments above, just allow insurance companies to write in clauses that limits their coverage if you were on the phone. As Joly noted above, the records for this could be sorted out after the collision.

    On a less serious note, the Utah study shows that pubs should shut down just after lunch, (but I guess open up around 6 am).

    • They'd make a killing in the morning drinker market!

    • I'll bet insurance companies already have such clauses.

    • If there is a passenger in the car at the time, they could easily claim to have been the ones on the phone. I know we'd be uping the charges to purgury, obstruction etc. but it would probably happen, and in somecases it would even be true.

  8. An extremely interesting post and I completely agree that there's nothing wrong in publishing surprising results (unless they're in some way fraudulent) that go against conventional wisdom.

    From the data in the linked article, the time period of accident 'spikes' and the dates that anti-cell phone laws were enacted in different in the different jurisdictions, the spikes are obviously linked to winter driving conditions (with some winters being less difficult than others).

    However, the cellphone bans do seem to have negligible effect, assuming that statistics for 3 year old and newer cars are typical of car accidents in total (could richer drivers drive better? Are there better safety features on newer cars?)

    What I find interesting (assuming controls and state statistics have not been been offset in the figures for clarity) is that the month to month variations in accident frequency between data sets are incredibly similar, yet absolute frequency values are usually quite different. Why are accident rates so much higher (or lower) in some states than in others while the months to month variations are so similar?

  9. Personally I don't think we should ban any kind of influence while driving. All that matters is actual damage caused, and we shouldn't prosecute people before they actually do something harmful.

    If someone causes a serious accident and is found to be at fault (due to alcohol, cell phone distraction, or just plain idiocy), they should be prosecuted for what they've done. Period. If someone else regularly drives with a cell phone but never gets into an accident, leave them alone.

    • I agree with Gaunilon, if I decide to fire a few rounds up into the air downtown, why get all bent out of shape if the bullets don't hit anyone?

    • Personally I don't think we should ban any kind of influence while driving. All that matters is actual damage caused, and we shouldn't prosecute people before they actually do something harmful.

      Gaunilon, you're joking, right? So we should only prosecute drunk drivers after they kill a family of five?

      • I'm serious. If a guy kills someone because of irresponsible behaviour he should be prosecuted for murder, second degree. I don't think that irresponsible behaviour that may lead to ill consequences should be prosecuted as a crime, although I'd support it being used as a justification for revoking one's license.

        • And I'm sure the victim's survivors will be comforted to know that at least they'll be able to make the funeral arrangements by cell-phone from their vehicle.

          You really don't get that for some things there is no "justice" that will make it better, so prevention is the better course of action?

    • Intellectually, I find this argument persuasive. Who the hell are you to tell me I can't get liquored up and behind the wheel if I know my limits and drive safely? A statistically significant percentage of damage-causing drunk drivers are repeat offenders. If we did a better of of, as Jack Mitchell put it so eloquently, making sure that his family is the last one that drunk driver ever kills, we'd go a long way towards reducing the incidence of drunk driving.

      But how many people don't know their limit and refuse to drive drunk out of fear of the law, not out of any sense of social responsibility? And isn't infringing our liberty to suck back a bottle of Crown Royal while waiting in traffic to save a non-trivial number of lives a pretty good cost-benefit case?

      This is what I mean when I say I'm a crappy libertarian. Sometimes, as much as the state regulating my behavior gives me the screaming heebie-jeebies, it makes sense.

  10. Does this mean they will be issuing tickets for dashboard drumming during In The Air Tonight as well. Should probably study that one, is it worse than, the same as or or less dangerous than driving drunk?

    • From a taste perspective, I think it's comparable :)

      • I've been a big Genesis fan ever since the release of their 1980 album, Duke. Before that, I really didn't understand any of their work. Too artsy, too intellectual. It was on Duke where Phil Collins' presence became more apparent. I think Invisible Touch was the group's undisputed masterpiece. It's an epic meditation on intangibility… Phil Collins' solo career seems to be more commercial and therefore more satisfying, in a narrower way. Especially songs like In the Air Tonight and Against All Odds. But I also think Phil Collins works best within the confines of the group, than as a solo artist, and I stress the word artist.

        • Some would say you're wandering off topic. I say, "Is In the air Tonight available as a ringtone?"

          • It must be.

            Also, I can't tell if you "got" my comment or not. I shall await confirmation that someone else other than me had the same thought when Phil Collins came up and was then subsequently slagged a bit.

        • Peter Gabriel : Genesis :: Colby Cosh : Maclean's

          Think about it.

        • Patrick Bateman, I presume?

    • I am actually working on a movie concept in which Gaunilon and I go roaming around the country side in an old pickup truck, drinkin beer, textin and buzzing wedding processions but I need a title.

      • Title: Good Ol Boys 2.0

  11. And for prevention, the people who want to drive drunk should have to pass their driver's test while under the influence.

    • The problem is, drunk is not a singular state of being (i.e, one can range from a bit tipsy to the verge of passing out).

  12. There's a great short story you should read some time, called "Minority Report". I think some dude named Spielberg even made it into a movie.

    Another suggestion for you: instead of assuming that everyone else doesn't "get it", you could operate on the assumption that multiple informed points of view are possible. Makes for the most interesting dialogue that way.

    • I've surrendered a lot of my inherent right to self-defense to the law, i.e. I can't throttle somebody for slapping me (or looking at me the wrong way, for that matter); society has told us to trust that the law will both prevent assault and punish assault when it does happen.

      Nonetheless, I think I draw the line at having society tell me, "Know your place, Mitchell. If and when you and your family get annihilated in a preventable head-on collision with a drunk, justice will be served in its own way, don't you worry about that! You and your family will be the last people that drunk driver ever kills!"

      I'm just selfish that way, I guess. Not willing to take one for the team. Not willing to be the bait that lures out the completely irresponsible drunk drivers.

      • I agree with everything Jack said, and I'll add the following: driving over the limit is illegal. If you drive drunk, not only are you endangering others, you are breaking the law and you deserve to be prosecuted. It really is that simple.

        • What's at issue is whether it should be illegal. No one is disputing that under current law it should be prosecuted.

          It sounds great to say that the risk to health and safety justifies laws against risky behaviour, but there is an alternate, perfectly reasonable, point of view: namely that people should only be held responsible for the harm they do, not the harm they might do.

          There is nothing inherently harmful about operating a vehicle while unfit to do so, just as there is nothing inherently harmful about using matches while unfit to do so. In both cases, however, the consequences can be very bad. Therefore if someone's reckless behaviour with either matches or a car causes harm they should be held responsible…but in my view we shouldn't be jailing them for harm they haven't yet caused.

          • So you don't feel that reckless endangerment should be criminalized? No harm, no foul?

          • No harm, no criminal conviction would be more like it. By all means take away the guy's driving license, but I think the standard for criminal prosecution should be outright harm rather than risk.

          • I feel certain there's an analogy that would drive a huge hole through this argument, but I haven't thought of it in the last three minutes, so I may come back to that.

            That said, what I DO like about this reasoning is that it drives a hole through our drug laws (and the "war on drugs") big enough to drive a truck through (even if you're drunk).

            If I can drive around drunk all day and only be held responsible if someone else is hurt, then I ought to be able to sit at home and get high all day, with the only limit being that I'll be held responsible if someone else is hurt by it. I certainly agree with that last part in principle, so I'll need to give some more thought as to why I disagree with the first part, but there's still something that seems wrong about that to me.

          • I tend to agree, although I have to point out that "harm" can include "harm to oneself"…in which case drug laws would be unaffected by my argument. Just pointing out the logical inferences here.

          • Wait, there's a law against me harming myself? A criminal law?

          • There's a law against attempted suicide, if that's what you're getting at.

            Though you wouldn't be prosecuted posthumously…

          • Also, are you saying that it's acceptable for a law to preemptively prevent me from theoretically causing future harm to myself, but that a law intended to preemptively prevent me from theoretically causing future harm to someone else doesn't sit well with you?

          • Who said anything about preemptively? If drugs are deemed to be harmful to the user, then someone could argue that drug use should be illegal.

          • I see what you're saying, I guess it's just a difference between whether one concludes that drugs ARE harmful, or simply that they COULD be harmful. I could snort some cocaine, get high, and never have a single problem (no harm no foul) or I could snort it once and die of a massive heart attack. Isn't that a bit like how you could drive around drunk all day and have nothing whatsoever happen, or you could do it once and take out a school bus full of five year olds?

          • yes, same principle, except that there are those who will object that every use of cocaine is harmful. In general they will argue that the psychological dependence is the harm, not the possibility of a heart attack, in which case every cocaine injection is harmful and your point falls.

          • we shouldn't be jailing them for harm they haven't yet caused.

            We aren't. The sentences for drunk driving are nothing compared to the sentences for 3rd degree murder.

          • OK analogy alert.

            I own an amusement park. I have a roller coaster that I know is unsafe because I bought it at IKEA and had parts left over after I completed it. By your logic, should it be perfectly permissible for me to operate said roller coaster, consequence free, until it flies off the rails and kills everyone on board (at which time I'm dutifully charged with killing the lot of them)?

            After all, there is nothing inherently harmful about operating a roller coaster that's unsafe, however the consequences can be very bad.

            Also, driving at 200 kph is probably pretty dangerous, but should I really get in trouble for the harm that my 200kph MIGHT cause? Until I take out a school bus, is it really anyone's business but my own if I want to drive real fast?

          • Exactly. In Montana they have (or at least had, the last time I was there) no speed limit. Drivers were expected to drive responsibly. Those who caused an accident and were deemed to have been acting irresponsibly were charged accordingly.

          • I don't agree with you overall but an interesting line of discussion!

            One of the issues with what you proposed was nicely illustrated by the financial crisis. In most jurisdictions, "crazy" risk taking was not banned by regulators (it was in Canada – I'm oversimplifying of course). By not banning it a number of concurrent and sequential events triggered a global meltdown of the financial system ("systemic risk," Governor Carney calls it).

            Canadian banks were regulated against this craziness to protect the Candian taxpayer and the Canadian economy – laws against risk-taking were on the books because potential "harm" wasn't as linear as "drunk man hits pedestrian, drunk man goes to jail".

            Not sure if there are other examples – but your proposal should allow for a situation where mulitple "risk-takers" collectively can inflict harm not specifically attributable to a single risk-taker.

          • Very good points you raise, and I applaud your ability to appreciate the interesting discussion without getting Thwimish due to your different point of view.

    • Multiple informed points of view are indeed possible. As are completely idiotic, bat-shit crazy points of view.

      I'm just of the impression that yours is in the latter category.

      Your using a slippery slope argument to back up a point of view that is so black and white, and, as such, divorced from reality, that I'm honestly stunned someone might be able to believe that while not wearing an extra-long-sleeved canvas jacket.

    • Of course multiple informed points of view are possible. However, so are points of view that are jaw-droppingly crazy. I just happen to think that yours is one of the latter category.

      Seriously, you're trying to use a work of fiction to construct a slippery slope argument in order to justify a point of view that is so black and white it's only connection to reality is that you're communicating it in english. I mean, I'm honestly stunned. I didn't think anybody past pubescence would be able to honestly hold such a view without wearing the canvas jacket with extra long sleeves.. yet somehow you're typing.

      I'm.. baffled. If you can't understand that allowing someone to be killed so that you can talk on your cellphone in the car is wrong, there's something wrong at a fundamental level.

      • Dude, you really need to immerse yourself in opposing points of view more. Really, there's a whole world out there with a lot of people who see things differently, and in general they don't react well to having their words misrepresented so that you can feel a warm glow of self-righteousness.

      • edit: Okay.. after a bit of time away, I'll see if I can explain this to you.

        Protective laws exist because the rights and freedoms they remove from us are inconsequential compared to the rights and freedoms that they might take away from others if something bad happens. Whether such a law is necessary depends on the likelihood of something bad happening. Let's use drunk driving, because it's a pretty easy example. For drunk driving, it's been made abundantly clear by now that the odds of something bad happening when driving drunk are extremely high. The rights and freedoms that driving drunk can take away (not just from you, but from other innocent people) are.. total. All of them. When your dead, all your rights and freedoms are gone. So combine these two things, total loss of rights and freedoms, and odds of this occuring being high, and we see that removing the right or freedom of a person to drive while drunk is a far lesser transgression when we consider the rights and freedoms of everyone.

  13. I think cell phone use while driving should be banned because driver is supposed to be focused on road. But I don't believe ban would decrease accidents all that much because someone who talks on cell phone while driving is also likely to fiddle with iPod or turn their head around to see what kids are doing in backseat or get distracted by a few dropped french fries or …. list is endless.

    The problem is not cell phones, specifically, but distractions in general. Pols would be on to something if they could ban distractions and ensure every driver has 100% focus on road.

    • Bring on the hair dryer ban! And the diggin a ciggie out of the pack ban!

      • If almost everyone with a car was carrying a hair dryer in their pocket everyday, and thousands of people were regularly driving around the country every day drying their hair while behind the wheel, I think I could get behind the hair dryer ban.

    • I'm a bit surprised by this comment of yours jolyon, because your usually the one arguing a a get out of my business libertarian approach to politics.

      Isn't the libertarian argument:
      We have banned distractions – we have laws against dangerous/reckless/careless driving. If you cause an accident and it is proven that the accident was caused by some condition of you driving carelessly, you are charged. Doesn't matter if you were distracted by the phone, the kids, the french fries, the hair dryer, you were distracted, drove improperly and caused an accident.

      If I can drive perfectly safely while on my cell phone why should I not be allowed to, just because a bunch of people cant? On the other hand, I know that when I start rocking-out to Springstein I lose all sense of direction, so I keep those CDs in the safety of my home. The state should stop telling me what does and does not distract me, I know that. We have laws against driving badly and causing accidents, there's no need for any more than that.

      • " If I can drive perfectly safely while on my cell phone why should I not be allowed to, just because a bunch of people cant?"

        Sure. And who, exactly, makes that determination? You? In your own analytical, unbiased assessment?

        Surely you see the flaw here.

  14. The data is at best useless and at worst wrong. There is too much noise in the data to draw any meaningful conclusions.

  15. Whoa, there's an “up” phase!?

    Colby, I recalled that I saw some solid scientific evidence regarding the "up" phase of intoxication many years ago. The researcher was named Dr. J. Fever and he worked at some place with the initials WKRP.

  16. It seems reasonable that, all other things considered, distractions while driving increase the chances of accidents. It doesn't necessarily follow, though, that a ban on cell phone use will be effective – because it's hard to enforce, because there's no guarantee of it affecting behaviour, because it targets one particularly cause of distraction when there's plenty of others. I haven't noticed any pressure for a doing-your-makeup-while-driving ban.

    I find the bans ridiculous, and if the study has a strong methodology – and if it doesn't, LaHood should be critiquing that rather than offering anecdotal evidence – that's a valuable addition to what we know, and a suggestion that cell phone bans may be more a way for the government to look like it's doing something than an actually effective action.

    Science is science, and it shouldn't be politicized. Sometimes it has results that support liberal ideas, sometime it has results that support conservative ones, sometimes it had results (like this one) supporting libertarian ones.

  17. This study from an insurance-industry mouthpiece group looked only at data from vehicles under 3 years old. If the family had multiple cars, that time period was reduced by half or more ("insurance years"). Ask any kid taking statistics if that makes this study valid. LaHood objected to the limited sampling, but didn't explain why. For good info on this topic, check out handsfreeinfo.com — it tracks cell phone and texting legislation nationwide.

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